Feb 082012
Authors: Jason Pohl

Republican caucuses around Colorado supported a surging Rick Santorum Tuesday in a close race, marking the official beginning of the 2012 election cycle and stoking fires among divided and frustrated Republicans.

Santorum was declared the winner in Colorado with 40.2 percent of the vote after a neck-and-neck late-night race with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who captured 34.9 percent of the vote.

“I think as voters have heard the candidates debate multiple times and see the good and bad, they’ve begun to realize the solid conservative values Rick Santorum represents,” said Alex Higgins, president of the College Republicans of CSU. “I think the bigger story is why voters are starting to choose Santorum over Romney.”

A Santorum-dominated crowd convened at the Fort Collins Hilton where four precincts gathered to cast their votes and discuss the biggest issues facing the country, including jobs, debt and government intrusion. Beliefs were split among the 60 individuals who packed a conference room and argued who would be best to take on Obama in November, none of whom ultimately chose Romney.

“For me personally, it’s about question marks about others,” said Dan Flook, a 52-year-old Fort Collins resident and Santorum supporter who questioned Romney’s past political decisions, primarily health care reform in Massachusetts.

“It’s going to depend if the voters of this country decide to follow the constitution and keep a legacy we’ve had for several hundred years,” Flook added. “It’s a matter of what people want.”

Larimer County remained a pivotal battleground for Santorum, beating out Romney with 44 percent of the vote. Romney came in with about 30 percent, and Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich rounded out the vote.

Though the Hilton precincts mostly supported Santorum, not everyone was so convinced that he could capably take down Obama in November. John Straayer, a CSU political science professor, explained that Santorum’s feasibility should be questioned as the GOP marches closer to choosing who will be its front-man in the 2012 presidential election.

He said that, while Santorum comes from likeable roots, his values are too extreme for the broad voter base needed to capture a general election. He explained how ultra-conservative individuals appeal to a niche in the voting public, but when all weighed together, he would lose.

“It won’t float nationally,” he said, referring to Santorum. Straayer explained the only candidate capable of successfully taking down Obama in November is Mitt Romney, whose biggest hurdle will be breaking above a “ceiling” that has kept him from completely running away with the vote.

Youth Vote’s Changing Face

While three of the four precincts at the Hilton ultimately selected Santorum, a large group of younger people remained energized by the more radical ideas of Ron Paul. His small government mindset appeals to young people, and a recent swing through Fort Collins seemed to have energized his base.

“He’s very consistent,” said Alec Lutzke, a chemistry graduate student. “I think that what you see is what you get with Ron Paul.”

Lutzke explained that, as a chosen delegate advocating for Paul, he will ultimately side with the emerging GOP candidate citing a need to ensure Obama does not remain in office for another four years.

“In my opinion, I think that Obama had his chance,” he said.

“I feel like Obama has not shown initiative in anything,” Lutzke explained, citing a need for a president who can sell his policy to Congress and the American people.

“I have not seen Barack Obama do that successfully.”

Another Paul supporter echoed these ideas and explained that, what makes Ron Paul a better choice for office is his desire to cut spending –– the biggest problem facing the country.

“I just think we need to change the way we run the country, said Sarah Glajch, a freshman international studies and political science major. “You do need to spend money, but you can also cut spending in other areas. Budget well.”

Straayer cautioned the reckless move that would come with supporting Paul, citing a need for solidarity among Republicans in order to ultimately win the election.

“The total package is too far-out to sell,” he said.

Regardless, the march to gather support over the coming months as more states cast a clearer picture of what fall will look like, the road to through to the White House is likely to be one for the record books.

“Romney would like to shut the game down and march on,” Straayer said. “This decision keeps the game going.”

Senior Reporter Jason Pohl can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Breakout: By the numbers

Santorum: 26,580 votes, 40.2%
Romney: 23,097 votes, 34.9%
Gingrich: 8,457 votes, 12.8%
Paul: 7,792 votes, 11.8%

Larimer County
Santorum: 2,148 votes, 44.1%
Romney: 1,448, 29.7%
Paul: 717, 14.7%
Gingrich: 557, 11.4%

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